DALLAS – At least five videos posted to Facebook appear to contradict state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano saying he was cursed and spat on during an exchange with a group of protesters over the weekend.
The Republican state representative voluntarily stopped to speak with a people picketing outside the Collin County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner at Plano Centre on Saturday evening.
“I didn’t have to stop and talk to you tonight but I wanted to because I want you to know how much I appreciate you being here. Let’s work together,” said Rep. Leach. “I know we’re doing a lot of this [putting both fists together to suggest heads butting] in this country right now and I don’t like that.”
The state representative even shared his personal mobile phone number with the group while standing at a hedge and speaking to them for about six minutes.
Protesters peppered him with questions about his positions on controversial issues.
“I appreciate y’all being here. This is what democracy is all about,” he told the group while trying to answer individuals.
“Rep. Leach just walked right up. No one even shouted at him in particular. He was with his wife, very confidently walked up to the group. I was impressed with that. He was shaking hands and said he respected our right to do this,” explained Carissa Stonecutter, who was there, and streamed it on Facebook Live.
“It was a benign situation. He didn’t really say much. It was very much ‘I’m open to talk to anybody. Here’s my phone number. My door is open to anybody,’” recalled Soraya Colli, a protester from Dallas who also recorded it.
As Rep. Leach walked away, one man can be heard on video saying “you know what leeches are” and the crowd began to boo.
But the following morning, Leach wrote on Facebook that he was: “...met with insults, accusations, cursing, spitting, and hate-filled speech the likes of which I have never heard.”
“I was outraged because it was such a blatant fabrication or mischaracterization of the interaction,” said Stonecutter. “It feeds into the narrative that these protests are filled with people who are out of control and unruly and who have malcontent.”
None of the five videos reviewed by WFAA show anyone spitting towards the state lawmaker or others reacting to such an act. In addition, no curse words could be heard on the videos either.
“If anyone had behaved in any kind of way that would have embarrassed protesters as a whole they would have been immediately denounced by the group. That is not how we want to be portrayed,” said Colli. “There was so many people around there’s no way that would not have gotten noticed. He lied about us and disparaged us.”
A couple of the videos showed everything from Leach approaching to him leaving.
“There were children there, as well,” said Jara Butler, from the Texas Young Democrats, who also witnessed it. “I didn’t see anybody spit. That’s not something I would have tolerated. Second, there were mostly women. They’re not exactly the snarl and spit type of women.”
The representative responded to the criticism on Facebook writing: “What you cannot hear in this video, however, are the insults, cursing and accusations – all of which were unfounded and hateful. You also cannot see the gentleman who appeared to spit at us from the back of the group.”
Gov. Abbott was the keynote speaker that night. Rafael Cruz, father to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, and Attorney General Ken Paxton were among other Republicans who attended but did not step out to acknowledge protesters.